NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs

I have sentimental feelings towards this book since it was the work that introduced me to the Beat movement. It is also the novel that pretty much ended literary censorship in the United States. It’s certainly had plenty of literary influence and does have passages of great beauty and power. Sadly, I just don’t feel it is very much of a novel. I have no problem with disjointed or surreal works but Burroughs here does not seem to be in control. Naked Lunch is just pure literary chaos. When it comes together at times, the impact is great but there are LOTS of parts where the book is just garbled or, even worse, dull. Burroughs strikes me as the least disciplined of the major Beat writers. Despite the stereotypes, some of which they helped to spread with their attitudes, Kerouac and Ginsberg took their craft very seriously. Burroughs actually seemed to be the talented but all over the place figure everyone thought the whole movement was. This being said, he was quite talented. I’ve read some short pieces of his that are just incredible. In two other novels I’ve read, Queer and The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead, Burroughs manages to successfully maintain reasonably long narratives. Both of these books are moving and, especially in the case of the latter, gorgeously written. Unfortunately Burroughs is best known for Naked Lunch.  Read it, by all means, but check out some more Burroughs if you’re underwhelmed. 

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